Superintendent Richard Thompson, 73, will retire in January, after 14 years serving the Archdiocese of Denver Catholic schools.
In a letter sent to the principals of the Catholic schools last week, Thompson noted that he has worked for 50 years in education, most of that time in the ministry of Catholic education.
His relationship with Catholic schools got off to a rocky start, he revealed in a 2011 interview with students from Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wheat Ridge. He told the students that his time spent at St. Mary Catholic School in Cheyenne was short-lived, and that his parents had to enroll him in public school.
When he was a junior in high school, however, he had a deep desire for a Catholic education. He convinced his parents to enroll him in the Catholic high school, and he said it “made all the difference in the world.”
Thompson graduated from Creighton University in 1964 with a degree in English literature and education. He began his career as a teacher, and eventually moved into administration after earning a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Colorado.
His career with Catholic schools began in 1980 when he chose to move from his position as director of the Business School at Black Hills State University, S.D. to serve as principal of a Catholic high school that was facing financial issues. While in education, he also developed businesses and owned and operated four restaurants, one of which catered the installation of Bishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., in 1988, when he arrived in Rapid City, S.D.
The two began to work together in the ministry of Catholic schools, and Thompson helped the bishop open a new high school, and then served as superintendent until he left to serve in the Archdiocese of Denver. Thompson arrived in Denver 2001, served as associate superintendent, and in 2004 was asked by Archbishop Chaput to serve as superintendent.
A committee led by Father Randy Dollins, the vicar general and moderator of the curia, will begin a national search for a new superintendent. Both Thompson and the archdiocese hope the search will be conducted quickly to ensure a smooth transition.
“I am grateful to God and to so many people for the grace, guidance and support that have helped me and my faith-filled and competent office colleagues provide vision, support and direction to the schools and parishes in the Church of northern Colorado,” Thompson wrote. “This archdiocese also provides witness and has influence on the national scene, and our school ministry is an important part of that.
“Any leader, any superintendent, must stand for something and must pursue that with conviction, while standing on the shoulders of those who preceded her or him,” he continued. “I have tried to do so, sometimes to the frustration and disagreement of others; other times to the satisfaction and gratitude of others. Each day of those 14 years, I have prayed to live and serve in a manner worthy of the call I received.”
In 2011, he and his wife Judy were inducted into the Papal Order of St. Gregory the Great. Thompson has also served on the National Advisory Council for Bishops and the Region VIII Advisory Council for the Small Business Administration.
Thompson plans to return to Rapid City, where he and Judy now live.
“I look forward to time with Judy and family in increments of more than a few days,” he said. “We have daughters on each coast and a son in the middle, so we look forward to seeing the U.S.A., kids, grandkids and friends.”